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Consumers Expectations For Brand Leadership Has Changed

Jacob Steinfield, Assistant Account Executive
May 7, 2020

An acronym soup for breakfast: COVID, WCS, and KPIs

It does not look like our distancing days are going to go anywhere soon, but even when mobility comes back – and we rise dramatically from the couch – consumer relationships with brands will have been transformed.

There's some debate over habit-forming timelines. Conventionally, 21 days was the magic number needed for permanent changes to occur (based on research published in Maxwell Maltz's 1960 bestseller Psycho-Cybernetics), but more contemporary researchers have found the length closer to 66 days. Either way, our COVID journey will certainly surpass both, and we have undoubtedly developed new attitudes and conditions that will remain as the world slides back into normalcy.

This is especially true in consumer expectations for brands as embedded community leaders, given the instantaneous pivot to solemn commitments to employees & customers in response to this emergency. There is a new standard for purpose from these entities: The uncountable statements of “togetherness” and ventures for collective healing will not be allowed to merely dissipate in the post-COVID era (which will not be such a binary distinction either). Learning from those who have delivered effectively and creatively in these conditions (see Light, Coors) will be imperative as consumers are more inclined than ever to use their buying power on companies whose actions and values align with their own – and uncommitted to companies who merely shouted for everyone to remember they existed. As Adweek reports from social psychologist Hillary Haley, “[People] don’t just want to be helped, they want to provide help themselves, and they’ll reward brands that act as facilitators.”

Take Spotify for example. This week, they launched their Music Relief project, with a new Artist Fundraising feature that gives listeners the option to donate to their favorite artist directly or a relief initiative of their choice. Donations will be matched by Spotify up to $10M, and users are given immense freedom to provide much-needed support.

Spotify

During this time, our client Eastern Bank has also successfully delivered on the values of their long-standing Join Us For Good brand campaign. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, they have pledged $10 million in aid to those most affected, became founding donors and administrators for the $25 million Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund, and provided pathways for people to join them in giving efforts along the way. The brand has deep roots in local volunteering and service, with this additional leadership making it clear that commitment to their communities is not new or temporary, but endemic to their brand’s DNA. 

Brands & marketers must consequently re-calibrate the levers they use to turn communication and brand identity into desired outcomes.

This brings us to an important consonant jumble: WCS – What Constitutes Success?

Achieving a quantifiable level of success is not a new challenge in the advertising space. The rise of digital marketing made the wide world of impact measurement a much more complicated game. Near infinite opportunities for companies to connect with people, ever-consuming throughout their day, creates a dizzying array of data points to synthesize. No longer is a sales lift or focus group – both limited by bias – the only ways to measure effects. We can see the resonance in real-time with brand recall and changes in buyer habits, and instantly tinker, AB test, and iterate. This can, however, restrict the horizon of our improvement targets in the endless pursuit of immediate incremental benefit. It is important to take a step back from your anchored campaign norms to identify larger potential opportunities, especially as messaging expectations change.  

Customers are less motivated than ever by undiluted sales pitches or vague statements of pandemic camaraderie, growingly conditioned against them, and capable of tuning out through ad blockers and nearby alternative devices. Attention needs to be truly earned, and people react positively and strongly to premises that are relevant, important, and authentic to them – especially when those messages are tied to action beyond the advertising or purely-commercial realm.  

As The Atlantic’s Amanda Mull reports, “[Leadership] vacuums have often been filled by brands that see social issues as an opportunity to connect with customers — especially younger ones, who want to believe that there’s a right way to spend their money.” While it may be challenging in our current circumstances to rationalize, brands are on the right track trying to compel outcomes that benefit society. In fact, consumers have growingly defined brands themselves by their social practices and philanthropic priorities.

Cooperation opportunities are key for marketers to validate brands as forces of communal good, but there is a huge opportunity and need for brands to give more direction in achieving such results. While hope and community belonging are fabulous intentions, the onslaught of purpose-based messaging inundating our timelines and networks with solemn background music often do not give specific, convincing instruction to achieve these goals. This is where marrying commonly-shared desired outcomes to internal metrics of improvement can create business objectives that are sincerely important to the customer – like the aforementioned Coors activation. Coors raised spirits with a unifying metric of donating 500,000 beers, while also focusing on definitive financial impressions by contributing all merchandise profits to COVID relief efforts. 

Cause-based marketing may pose difficult questions for ROI, but we can use our skills in translating data-driven insights to make cause-related messages as productive as our commerce-related ones. 

To do so, marketers must re-define their KPIs – Key Performance Indicators

Good marketers understand that true ROI is based on the lifetime value of your relationship with the customer, and the positive externalities that being in their network entails. To achieve such fruitful relationships, marketing initiatives must find a compelling way to demonstrate not just shared values, but a common purpose, all while facilitating ways to connect the two. Consumers understand that advertising is aimed to drive action, and when that action is one they consider worthy, it creates an association of aligned incentives.

Considering the enormous challenges in global health, environmental protection, and human rights, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who wouldn’t be compelled to think favorably of a campaign intentionally designed to improve these worthy outcomes. Converting favorable perception into action can be a difficult task, but brands can ignite such behavior by communicating KPIs that are meaningful to both the company and consumer. 

Conveying a measurable definition of success for your civic engagement program helps alleviate public concern about motives. Non-monetary KPIs can also be constructive, such as donated cans of non-perishables, volunteer hours, or shelters built. These not only create attainable goals, but valuable bonds for the company and consumers to work together toward. 

To build this new type of relationship with customers, brands often partner with philanthropic organizations that have endemic popular trust. It’s a form of assuaging concerns about the integrity of their efforts. However, with hundreds of brands flooding the market with cookie-cutter COVID-19 responses, such partnerships alone cannot galvanize when consumer individuality is not recognized. Advertising is often powerful because it speaks directly to a specific need, but when a sea-of-sameness permeates throughout, that influence dissipates.

Whatmomslove

To break this mold, AMP helped its client GIANT Food Stores launch the national #MoreForAll campaign, aimed to mitigate panic shopping by spreading direct, actionable instructions and driving awareness through digital conversations. Across media platforms, and with influencer help, local individuals instructed followers on ways to extend the life of their produce and urged them to be considerate of their peers. AMP was able to measure overwhelmingly positive sentiment and engagement, the topic clearly resonating with followers, and GIANT was able to see definitive reductions in over-buying.

Screen Shot 2020-05-06 at 12.10.32 PM

Even when the COVID-19 era subsides, there is a heightened expectation and opportunity for companies to continue to support communities. Large organizations can use their scale and connections to create value beyond their immediate spheres of influence, and engrain themselves positively into the public consciousness. When normalcy returns, brands should look at the successes of these charitable causes moving forward, and see that ROI can be earned and sustained with marketing that optimizes its positive impact on consumers’ daily lives. 

Key Takeaways

  1. Brands are increasingly defined by their conduct as community leaders and responses to social needs
  2. Leading firms are developing stronger relationships with consumers by empowering buyers to make a philanthropic difference with their spending
  3. Cause-marketing is most effective when campaign KPIs are also pertinent to consumer ideals, and messaging clearly illustrates how specific actions by both parties can catalyze an outcome that is mutually rewarding.

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This fall, AMP is kicking off its first ever DE&I challenge! We're playing bingo all month long and we invite you to join us. There’s gonna be bingo, there’s gonna be prizes, there’s gonna be education we can use to make our workplace and the world more equitable and inclusive. Get ready to celebrate diversity *and* simultaneously compete with your fellow AMPers for some awesome grand prizes. To play, screenshot the bingo card template in our Fall 2021 DE&I Challenge highlight on our Instagram page, and re-share it to your Instagram Story as you complete challenges. Tag us in pics of you completing challenges for a chance to be featured in our Highlight reel! For recommendations and resources, view our Instagram page and click the link in bio to view the resource list. LINKS: Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/amp_agency/ Resource list: https://linktr.ee/ampagency We encourage our industry peers to join us in taking on the challenge!

In the world of social media, trends, features, and even platforms can seemingly become a phenomenon overnight. One night, you go to bed after scrolling your Instagram feed, and the next morning you wake up to a brand new, intriguing yet unfamiliar app called TikTok. It doesn't take long for this app to surpass all others as the most downloaded app of all time with over 1 billion active users across the world.  Flash forward to the present day where Instagram - and almost every other popular social platform, for that matter - are scrambling to keep up with this new app. So, what makes TikTok so attractive, and can Instagram compete with their look-a-like competitive feature, IG Reels? Well, let’s dive in!    Why is short-form video so popular all of the sudden?  Before we talk about Reels and TikTok, let’s first address why the short-form video nature of both platforms caught on so quickly. For a long while, social media marketers have strategized their content around the fact that the attention span of our followers is short- and we mean short. According to Facebook, marketers only have 0.25 seconds to capture a user’s attention before they keep scrolling.  With that in mind, snackable video content became the name of the game for brands and content creators and opened the door to a scrappier style of content - especially for brands who had typically seen video content as an expensive, high-production-value ordeal.  The lower production value required for a high-performing Reels or TikTok video was key for brands. That, paired with the fact that these platforms became widely popular during a pandemic when creative teams were developing content out of their own homes. Additionally, it opened up a new door for brands and content creators to turn out quick-hit, entertaining content.    What’s the difference between Reels and TikTok?  Now that we’ve covered why short-form video content is so popular across both Reels and TikTok, let’s discuss the key differences between these platforms that have affected how they’ve been adopted by social users.    Reels TikTok The Takeaway The User Experience To navigate to Reels, users must first open the Instagram app, where they will be shown their regular feed from accounts they follow. Then, they will select the Reels icon from the bottom menu to start viewing Reels in a TikTok-esque feed of content that’s been curated for the user by Instagram’s algorithm.  When a user opens the TikTok app, they are immediately shown a curated feed of TikToks the platform’s algorithm has chosen - AKA the “FYP” (for you page). The full screen and vertical swipe feed create a frictionless user experience that makes it as easy as possible to enjoy the app.  TikTok’s unique user experience puts short-form video content curated just for you at the center stage, creating a seamless and simple way to enjoy content. On the other hand, Reels is only a feature of Instagram among many others.  Music & Video Editing Tools Due to copyright concerns, Instagram business accounts only have access to Reels’ library of royalty-free tracks, while content creators have access to a larger library full of popular copyrighted music. While Reels does offer video editing tools, they can be tricky to navigate and their filters and effects are not very extensive.  Music and sound are the cornerstones of a TikTok video, and the app has nailed this feature with its extensive library of music and user-generated sounds available to content creators and brands alike. On top of that, TikTok’s video editing features are user-friendly, and they offer a wide variety of filters and video effects.  TikTok is the clear winner when it comes to music and video editing tools given their extensive music and sound library and editing capabilities.  Platform Purpose   Instagram, home of Reels, is a network-oriented app, where users are used to seeing content from people they are familiar with and have chosen to follow. However, in the Reels section of the app, it takes on a content-oriented approach, serving users content from people they don’t know.  At its core, TikTok is a content-oriented app. It normalized the experience of seeing content from people you don’t know in your feed based on your usage history and learned preference.  While both platforms' short-form video features are content-oriented, Instagram is known for being a network-oriented app. Instagram has offered a similar user experience through their “Explore” page since 2012, so this balance between content and network orientation is something they’ve been teetering for a while.  The Algorithm  Instagram has been less transparent about the Reels algorithm, however, it has provided a few best practices for success. For example, Instagram recommends that Reels content is entertaining, fun, and inspiring, uses the app’s creative editing tools, and leverages the music or sounds provided. Instagram has also shared that content that is visibly recycled from other apps (e.g. contains a TikTok watermark) will also be deprioritized by the algorithm.  Beyond all of the features listed above, TikTok’s arguably largest advantage is its algorithm. The platform’s parent company, ByteDance, has been very transparent about the large investment they made to design the app’s algorithm that picks up on users' personalized interests in record time, contributing to the effortless and enjoyable nature of consuming content on the app.  Overall, TikTok’s algorithm is the first of its kind and unlike anything we’ve ever seen in the social space, which ultimately contributes to its success. We don’t know as much about Instagram’s Reels algorithm, but we can assume it attempts to mimic the TikTok experience while staying true to the app and attempting to keep Reels content unique.     How Brands Can Be Successful on Reels and TikTok To be successful on Reels and TikTok, brand content shouldn’t feel like brand content. Brands need to get scrappy and creative to grab user’s attention and not stand out like a sore thumb among the style of content shared by individual creators. With that in mind, both Reels and TikTok require a unique content strategy within the brand’s larger social strategy. However, that inevitably requires extra time and effort. To decide which of these platforms to begin focusing your efforts on, ask yourself these two questions:  Which platform is your audience on currently?  Which one can you commit to doing consistently?  While there are many benefits of TikTok as discussed above in our comparison of the two platforms, many brands have already established themselves and have grown a following on Instagram, and therefore beginning to utilize Reels has a low barrier to entry. While cross-posting between the two platforms is an option we’ve seen numerous brands take, a carefully thought out strategy for each channel your brand has a presence on is more important than simply having content out there. When it comes to a brand’s social presence, quality is always preferred over quantity.  The social world is ever-evolving - and at the end of the day, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to which platform is best - the answer is unique to your brand’s priorities and your team’s bandwidth to thoughtfully manage the channels on which your brand appears.  

In our continuing series of examining Google Search Trends to gain insights into the top keywords queried in the USA, we present our findings for July 2021. Every day, we capture the top three keyword phrases in terms of search volume as reported by Google Trends (US Only). Each term has an estimated query volume attached to it, which we also record. The number scale tops out at 10,000,000+ with a lower limit of 200,000+. After the conclusion of the month, we look at the phrases we collected along with their volumes to get an understanding of what drove queries for the month. The One and Only For most months, there are multiple keyword phrases that are searched over ten million times. In July 2021, there was only one: Giannis Antetokounmpo - 7/20/2021 - 10,000,000+ queries We still have a hard time pronouncing his last name but “The Greek Freak” had his moment not only in his sport but also in Google search when he helped his Milwaukee Bucks win the NBA championship for the first time in 50 years and earned himself the Finals MVP award. The fact that an NBA player’s name was the only phrase that made the 10 million plus club should be seen as foreshadowing.  There will be more to come on the topic of sports.   Independence and Ice Cream We love seeing search query data related to holidays.  Here are the top ones related to the Fourth of July:   Independence Day - 7/3/2021 - 5,000,000+ queries Fourth of July - 7/4/2021 - 1,000,000+ queries Joey Chestnut - 7/4/2021 - 500,000+ queries The 4th just wouldn’t be the 4th without Joey Chestnut making the top 3 most queried phrases, as we discussed last year. Another “holiday” that we thought would drive a lot of queries in 2021 was National Ice Cream Day. National Ice Cream Day 2021 - 7/18/2021 - 200,000+ queries We were excited to see it make the top 3 on July 18th.  We’ll write up the companion piece to our original food and beverage holiday post in the coming weeks.   July Movie and TV Show Premieres If you want to answer the question of, “What are the most popular movies or TV shows?” at any given time, look at Google Trends data. It will show you what people are searching for, which you can translate into what people are interested in watching. Black Widow - 7/8/2021 - 1,000,000+ queries Never Have I Ever - 7/15/2021 - 200,000+ queries Space Jam - 7/16/2021 - 2,000,000+ queries Money in the Bank 2021 - 7/18/2021 - 500,000+ queries Jungle Cruise - 7/30/2021 - 500,000+ queries It looks like people really wanted to see the Space Jam sequel during its opening weekend even if it didn’t get the best reviews from critics.    Billionaires In Space July 2021 will be remembered as the month when two guys with extremely large net worths got into rocket ships and blasted off into space. Richard Branson - 7/10/2021 - 2,000,000+ queries Jeff Bezos - 7/19/2021 - 2,000,000+ queries Even though Richard Branson could note a ‘win’ by beating his rival Jeff Bezos’ launch date by 9 days, there was no win in search interest. It was about the same for each launch.   Gaming News There’s always one topic that gets a few phrases into the daily top 3 that we bring forth in these posts. For much of 2021, it’s been the meme stock phenomena.  In July, we were happy to see two keyword phrases related to gaming as it is one of the industries in which we have expertise: Steam Deck - 7/15/2021 - 500,000+ queries Pokemon Unite - 7/20/2021 - 200,000+ queries Sports - The Most Searched Topic Of the 93 keywords collected each day in July 2021 (the daily top 3 most queried phrases) 58% of them were sports-related.  That’s one percentage point better than in June. With the combination of the NBA Finals, International Soccer, MLB All Star Game and trade deadline, and the Olympics, search interest in sports was at an all-time high. In this section, we don’t present all of the phrase but key moments during the month (there were a lot of them). Since Giannis took the 10 million plus queries award, we’ll list all of the NBA related phrases: Bucks - 7/1/2021 - 1,000,000+ queries Bucks - 7/3/2021 - 2,000,000+ queries NBA Finals - 7/8/2021 - 2,000,000+ queries Suns vs. Bucks - 7/14/2021 - 2,000,000+ queries NBA Finals - 7/17/2021 - 5,000,000+ queries Giannis Antetokounmpo - 7/20/2021 - 10,000,000+ queries NBA Draft 2021 - 7/29/2021 - 2,000,000+ queries Russell Westbrook - 7/29/2021 - 2,000,000+ queries The championship matches of two international soccer tournaments occured in July 2021 and the growing US interest for what the rest of the world calls Football continued: Euro 2021 - 7/2/2021 - 1,000,000+ queries Copa America - 7/2/2021 - 500,000+ queries England vs Denmark - 7/6/2021 - 1,000,000+ queries Italy vs Spain - 7/6/2021 - 500,000+ queries Argentina vs Brazil - 7/9/2021 - 1,000,000+ queries Italy vs England - 7/10/2021 - 5,000,000+ queries England vs Italy - 7/11/2021 - 1,000,000+ queries With fans back in stands, interest in Major League Baseball is back up this July: Home Run Derby 2021 - 7/12/2021 - 2,000,000+ queries All-Star Game - 7/13/2021 - 1,000,000+ queries Washington Nationals - 7/17/2021 - 200,000+ queries Yermin Mercedes - 7/21/2021 - 200,000+ queries Anthony Rizzo - 7/28/2021 - 1,000,000+ queries Anthony Rizzo - 7/29/2021 - 2,000,000+ queries Javier Baez - 7/30/2021 - 200,000+ queries Nick Madrigal - 7/30/2021 - 200,000+ queries Even the NHL, with its Stanley Cup Finals ending on July 7th, had a few phrases make the daily top 3: Tampa Bay Lightning - 7/7/2021 - 500,000+ queries Seattle Kraken - 7/21/2021 - 500,000+ queries Evander Kane - 7/31/2021 - 200,000+ queries Although it was reported the TV ratings of this year’s Summer Olympics were poor, the search interest spanned across more than a week.  Here are the top queried terms related to the games: USWNT - 7/21/2021 - 200,000+ queries Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 - 7/22/2021 - 2,000,000+ queries Olympics 2021 schedule - 7/22/2021 - 200,000+ queries Olympics schedule - 7/23/2021 - 500,000+ queries Michael Phelps - 7/23/2021 - 200,000+ queries United States Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 - 7/24/2021 - 1,000,000+ queries USA Basketball - 7/24/2021 - 1,000,000+ queries Olympic medal count - 7/24/2021 - 500,000+ queries Simone Biles - 7/25/2021 - 2,000,000+ queries ROC Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 - 7/25/2021 - 1,000,000+ queries Simone Biles Olympics - 7/25/2021 - 500,000+ queries Katie Ledecky - 7/26/2021 - 500,000+ queries Tom Daley - 7/26/2021 - 200,000+ queries Simone Biles - 7/27/2021 - 5,000,000+ queries Suni Lee - 7/28/2021 - 1,000,000+ queries Katie Ledecky - 7/31/2021 - 500,000+ queries Melissa Gonzalez - 7/31/2021 - 200,000+ queries The team at AMP doesn’t think that this monopoly on search interest can be maintained by the world of sports. There were a few factors that led to the large number of sports-related queries making the daily top 3. The sheer number of interesting sporting events happening during the month was one factor. For example, the Olympics don’t happen every month.  Also, with people returning to stadiums to watch games, the level of search interest in professional sports has increased. We think that we shouldn’t underestimate the importance of fan-attended games to drive interest. Thanks for reading. If you liked this article, we utilize search trends data for all of our clients and we invite you to learn more about our SEO services. Until next month.